Andrew Forrest’s Rapid Rugby initiative has hit a small road bump, with the “tight time frame and intricacies of a World Cup year” forcing them to move their debut season back to 2020.
The breakaway competition has long promised to revolutionise the way rugby is played and watched, with “innovative” new rules and “spectacular” off-field entertainment being promised by Forrest.
But fans will have to wait another year to see the eight-team competition in action, after Global Rapid Rugby today revealed the competition had been postponed.
The competition will, however, be staging a ‘Showcase Series’ in 2019, with an unspecified number of fixtures demonstrating the new breed of rugby to be played in Australasia, Asia and the Pacific Islands on dates yet to be announced.
“In 2019, fans are going to get a real feel for how the entertainment experience we pioneered in Australia last year will evolve throughout the Asia Pacific,” Forrest said in a press release.
While Global Rapid Rugby declined to specify exactly why the World Cup year caused the competition bad been pushed back, the lack of a strong broadcasting arrangement has been speculated as the reasoning.
“[The Showcase Series] will form a runway for the launch of an even bigger investment in 2020, once strong broadcasting arrangements are in place,” Forrest said.
“Making Rapid Rugby a reality has required a considerable amount of courage and determination. That determination, and our vision, has not changed. The strategy required to realise it requires a strong foundation,” he added.
Head of rugby Matt Hodgson remained bullish on the tournament’s prospects, insisting they had players and teams in place for 2019.
“Rapid Rugby is going to be huge, and the Showcase Series will prove it,” he said.
“Like me, the players and teams were ready to go but I am confident the 2019 series will be a great demonstration of what a full season of increased ball-in-play time, attacking, aggressive, high scoring rugby will look like,” he added.
Spurned into action by the controversial removal of the Western Force from Super Rugby in 2017, the Global Rapid Rugby group did receive approval from World Rugby to stage an ‘elite-level competition’ last year.
But, for now, it’ll be another year before this dream is fully realised.